Philadelphia Cookies and Cream Cheesecake

Cheesecake, without a doubt, is one of America’s favorite desserts. Whether it’s baked or unbaked, sweetened with sugar and flavored with fruit, nuts and/or chocolate, cheesecake is a delicacy that has few rivals.

My first introduction to real cheesecake came more than 20 years ago. It was made by a co-worker, Gail Hand, and since then, I’ve rarely had another that could compare to it.

While cheesecake has been around in one form or another since ancient Greece, Americans didn’t fall in love with it until the 20th century.

In 1912, a man named James Kraft developed a form of pasteurized cream cheese. He later acquired the Philadelphia trademark for it in 1928. Philadelphia Cream Cheese is now the most commonly used cheese for cheesecake.

Here’s a recipe for cheesecake from the Real Women of Philadelphia website (http://realwomenofphiladelphia.com), which chocolate lovers will especially love.

Philadelphia Cookies and Cream Cheesecake
16  Oreo cookies, ground up
3 ounces melted butter
24 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese (3 8-ounce packages)
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 Eggs
6 Oreo cookies (crushed)
Grind the 16 Oreo cookies in food processor
Melt the butter.  Add the cookies and butter together and combine.
Press this crust into the bottom of a springform pan. Bake the crust in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.
In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, start mixing the cream cheese. Add sugar and mix. Add the lemon juice and vanilla and mix. Add each egg one at a time. Once fully incorporated, stir in the crushed Oreo cookies.
Pour the filling over the cooled crust. Bake in a 290 degree oven for 60 to 70 minutes
Cool completely before eating.

Eggnog Snickerdoodle Cookies

Almost every holiday comes with its own treats. Who can think of Thanksgiving — which is coming up this Thursday — without conjuring up images of pumpkin pie with whipped cream? Or how about popcorn balls on Halloween?

The same could be said about Christmastime. What would that time of the year be without eggnogg or Snickerdoodle cookies? At least those are treats that J.M Hirsch associates with the holiday season in December.

Hirsch, who is food editor for the Associated Press and one of my favorite writers, wondered what would happen if you combined those two classic treats. What he came up with is the following recipe, which I may just have to add to my holiday baking list.

Eggnog Snickerdoodle Cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter
2 cups sugar, divided
¼ cup plain eggnog
1 tablespoon dark rum or brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on high to beat the butter and 1½ cups of the sugar until light and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly drizzle in the eggnog, rum and vanilla, mixing until completely incorporated. Add the eggs, then beat until well-mixed.
Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour.
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, mix together the remaining ½ cup of sugar, the cinnamon and nutmeg.
Working with 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, roll the dough between your hands to form balls. Roll each ball in the sugar mixture to coat evenly, then arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Leaving 2 inches between the cookies on all sides. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly golden, but still soft at the center. Transfer to a rack to cool.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.
Yield: 36 cookies.
Approximate nutritional analysis per cookie: 110 calories, 36 percent of calories from fat, 4.5 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated, no trans), 20 milligrams cholesterol, 17 grams carbohydrate, no fiber, 8 grams sugar, 2 grams protein, 75 milligrams sodium.
Note: Hirsch is the is author of the cookbook “High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking.” Follow him to great eats on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch or email him at jhirsch(at)ap.org.

Vanilla Pecan Pie

No holiday meal would be complete without dessert, pie or cake being the choice of many people. But some are divided on what is the better.

Fans of cake cite its sweetness and melt-in-your-mouth qualities. Pie lovers will counter that pie is sweet, too, but in a more subtle and complex way. Plus it has a delicious crust.

For those two different camps, I suggest a combination of the two, such as the following from McCormick, in which cheesecake meets pecan pie in a smooth and decadent seasonal dessert.

Vanilla Pecan Pie
1 pie crust
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
3 eggs, divided
¾ cup sugar, divided
4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
½ cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups pecan pieces, toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare crust using 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Beat cream cheese, 1 of the eggs, ¼ cup of the sugar and 2 teaspoons of the vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well-blended and smooth. Spread evenly on bottom of crust. Bake 15 minutes.
Beat remaining 2 eggs and ½ cup sugar in large bowl with wire whisk until smooth. Add corn syrup, butter, remaining 2 teaspoons vanilla and salt; stir until well-blended. Sprinkle pecans evenly over baked cream cheese layer. Slowly pour corn syrup mixture over nuts.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until just set in center. Cool completely on wire rack.
Yield: Serves 10.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 506 calories, 34 grams fat, 43 grams carbohydrates, 96 milligrams cholesterol, 307 milligrams sodium. 2 grams dietary fiber, 7 grams protein.

German Chocolate Cake

Cooking inspiration can come from a number of places. Perhaps, tonight’s idea for supper came from a recipe you saw in a magazine or cookbook. Or maybe it was on one of the many cooking shows available on cable or Dish TV these days. My latest came from Facebook.

A friend, LoAnn Stadstad, said that her banana bread and German chocolate cake was just about ready for beet harvest — when it starts back up. That sounded pretty good to me, especially the latter.

It wasn’t too long ago that I made some banana bread. But it’s been awhile since I’ve tried my hand at a German chocolate cake, which just happens to be my favorite.

My mom used to make me a German chocolate cake for my birthday when I was growing up, and my affection for it hasn’t waned over the years. I especially like the frosting.

The last time I made a German chocolate cake was a half-dozen years ago. I prepared it for a Humane Society fundraiser at which cakes were auctioned off. I don’t remember how much mine went for, but it was probably more than it was worth. And I don’t recall the exact recipe or what was the source.

Well, I’m ready to give it another try after reading LoAnn’s FB entry. And here’s the recipe that I’m going to try. It’s from Hershey’s, the chocolate people, so it should be pretty tasty.

German Chocolate Cake
¼ cup Hershey’s Cocoa
½ cup boiling water
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
2¼ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (see note)
Coconut Pecan Frosting (recipe follows)
Pecan halves (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3 9-inch round baking pans.
Stir together cocoa and water in small bowl until smooth; set aside. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with chocolate mixture and buttermilk, beating just enough to blend. Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Prepare frosting; spread between layers and over top.
Note: To sour milk: Use 1 tablespoon white vinegar plus milk to equal 1 cup.
Yield: Serves 10 to 12.
Coconut Pecan Frosting
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups Mounds Sweetened Coconut Flakes
1 cup chopped pecans
Stir together sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks and butter in medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla, coconut and pecans. Cool to room temperature.
Yield: About 2 2/3 cups frosting.

Berry Bars

Summer is a time of celebrations. And no matter if it’s a barbecue or picnic for a family get-together or just the occasion of friends gathering for a little repartee, things always go better with a delicious dessert.

Summer also is the tastiest time of the year when it comes to desserts because of all the seasonal and sweet fresh fruit that is available.

Here’s a light and easy summer dessert recipe from pastry chef and author, Paula Shoyer, which features raspberries and blueberries, two fruits that are readily available in this neck of the woods.

Shoyer, author of “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy,” says “Summer brings occasions when you may be baking for many people and need to whip up a tasty dessert with little more notice than your neighbor saying to come on by for a last-minute cook-out. Summer dessert baking does not have to mean spending hours in a hot kitchen.  As a busy wife and mother, I know how valuable time can be. I have created a fast and easy recipe that uses fresh seasonal summer fruits that pack and travel with ease for a picnic or party — if they last that long.”

Berry Bars
This easy recipe turns classic bar cookies into handheld two-bite pies that can be easily packed into a picnic hamper.  They hold up well, perfect for an afternoon in the sun or an evening concert.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) parve margarine, frozen for 15 minutes, plus extra for greasing pan and parchment
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh raspberries
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan with some margarine. Place a piece of parchment in the pan that is large enough to go up the sides and hang over a few inches. Grease the top and sides of the parchment.
To make the crust: Place the flour and sugar into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process for 10 seconds. Cut the margarine into pieces and add to the bowl. Process or use your hands to mix for another 10 seconds. Add the vanilla and egg yolk and then process or mix until the dough just comes together.
Divide the dough in half, making one piece a little bigger. Wrap both pieces in plastic; flatten and place the smaller one in the freezer. Take the larger piece and break it into pieces and scatter over the parchment. Press the pieces into the pan as evenly as you can. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile place the raspberries and blueberries into a large bowl and squeeze with your hands to break up the raspberries.
Add the sugar and flour and squeeze together. This part is fun, but you may still want to use plastic gloves as I did.  Remove the other dough piece from the freezer and, using the large holes of a box grater, grate the remaining dough over the filling.
Bake for 50 minutes, or until the top starts to look golden brown. Let cool. Trim off about ¼ inch of the sides, if desired, and eat them immediately, and then cut into squares or long bars. Serve warm or cold.
Yield: 35 square bars.
Note: To learn more about Paula Shoyer, visit her website, www.PaulasPastry.com, and  www.kosherbaker.blogspot.com.

Strawberry Shortcake

What’s the most popular dessert that contains  strawberries? If you guessed strawberry shortcake, there’s a good chance that you might be right. On the other, it’s hard to find any polls or surveys confirming that.

Undoubtedly, though, strawberry shortcake is among the top summertime desserts. In fact, some people celebrate June 12 as National Strawberry Shortcake Day.

For those of you who don’t know, strawberry shortcake is a popular scone or biscuit-like pastry that is made from milk, flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs as well shortening or butter.

The origin of this delicious dessert dates back as early as the 1500s in Europe, but it wasn’t until a few hundred years later that it became popular in the United States. However by 1850, strawberry short cake parties were the rage in the U.S., especially while welcoming the summer every year.

With a small crop of strawberries in our little garden this year, we might have enough for a dessert or two besides some for our morning breakfast cereal.

Here’s a recipe that I may try, courtesy of Los Angeles Times writer S. Irene Virbila. She adapted it from one in author Lindsey Shere’s “Chez Panisse Desserts.”

Strawberry Shortcake
STRAWBERRIES:
3 16-ounce pints strawberries
About 3 tablespoons superfine sugar
Two to four hours before serving, wash and hull the berries. Roughly slice or quarter two-thirds of the berries into a large bowl. Sprinkle the sugar over the berries and, using a wire pastry blender, smash the berries so they begin to juice. Halve or slice the remaining berries into the bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
SHORTCAKES:
2 cups (8.5 ounces) flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons whipping cream, divided
Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like cornmeal with a few larger pieces of butter in it. Use a pastry blender or two knives, if you like. Mix in three-fourths cup of cream, just until most of the dry mixture has been moistened. Turn out on a board and knead a few times until the dough just comes together. Divide into six portions and lightly pat into flat rounds about one-half-inch thick.
Place on an unbuttered baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons cream, and bake until the tops are lightly browned and the dough is set, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on a rack.
WHIPPED CREAM:
1 cup (more if desired) heavy whipping cream
Pinch superfine sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
While the shortcakes are cooling, whip the cream. Using a balloon whisk, whip the cream in a large bowl until it is thick, but not stiff. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla extract.
To serve, split the shortcakes in half. Ladle lots of strawberries on the bottom half, cover with the top half and spoon the whipped cream over.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 629 calories, 7 grams protein, 55 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 44 grams fat (27 grams saturated), 143 milligrams cholesterol, 18 grams sugar, 471 milligrams sodium.

Buttermilk Pie

Do you remember a time when you could find thick, rich buttermilk — the kind that would make a spoon stand up straight and have the tang of yogurt but was just a bit thinner? If your answer is yes, there’s a good chance you are as old or older than me.

One of my fondest memories of my youth was when Dad would bring buttermilk home in a half-gallon glass container from a dairy in Twin Valley, Minn. He would pour some in a big glass and season it with a bit of salt and pepper before gulping it down. My brother, Kevin, and I soon were following in his footsteps.

These days, it’s hard, if not impossible, to find that kind of buttermilk, which probably was fermented by natural bacteria. Now, with the rise of large commercial dairies,  much of the buttermilk today is made with reduced-fat milk instead of the old-fashioned way of adding active cultures to regular milk or “sweet” milk.

I learned a bit about this from reading a Chicago Tribune article by food writer Bill Daley. He quoted author Debbie Moose, whose book “Buttermilk” soon will be published by the University of North Carolina Press as part of its “Savor the South Cookbook” series. Moose said that small dairies are the likely best sources for thick buttermilk, but finding one of them and buying their products can be a challenge.

Daley did find one outlet, a company in Kalona, Iowa, selling organic buttermilk and a variety of other products under the Kalona SuperNatural label. I don’t know if it’s available around here. But I plan on doing a little research to see if it or something similar is available. And if successful, I may try it in the following recipe for buttermilk pie.

Buttermilk Pie
2 unbaked pie shells
2½ cups sugar
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup flour
1 pint buttermilk
2 eggs beaten
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat eggs, add sugar and flour. Stir in buttermilk and flavorings. Add melted butter. Divide evenly between two 9-inch unbaked pie shells. Bake for 45 minutes. Top should be golden brown, and center firm. Cool on wire racks before serving.
Yield: 2 9-inch pies.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie

What do you think is the most anticipated fresh produce of spring? Could it be asparagus? Or how about spinach? Both rank among the favorites of people in the Midwest.

For me, it’s all about rhubarb, as I imagine it is for most of the people who plan on attending University Lutheran Church’s annual Rhubarb Festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 9.

By then, there’ll will plenty of rhubarb to go around. But for now, anyone who wants a tasty rhubarb dessert will have rely on what’s left in the freezer leftover from last summer.

And for those who do, here’s a recipe from the folks at Spice Islands  to try. The rest of you will have to wait at least a week or two.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
2 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced ½-inch thick
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
1 prepared pie crust, unbaked
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
6tablespoons butter or margarine
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Gently combine strawberries, rhubarb, ½ cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, and almond extract. Spoon mixture into pie crust. Set aside.
Mix brown sugar, 1 cup flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in medium bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle over fruit pie; pat down topping gently with hands.
Place pie on baking sheet; bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Baking Whoopie

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. And that means there will be a lot of sweets being passed around to sweethearts, and some of them will be homemade.

How’s this for an idea with that in mind? Whoopie pies.

Jill Wendholt Silva of McClatchy Newspapers put forth that idea in a story that recently caught my attention. She said that whoopie pies are an all-American baked good that looks like a puffed-up sandwich cookie but tastes more like a cupcake. Think cake with frosting that doesn’t get all over everything.

She added that the pies trace their origins from both Pennsylvania, where they are sometimes called “gobs,” and Maine, where thousands attend an annual whoopie pie festival.

Here are a three recipes that might be appropriate for your sweetie. They are from “Whoopie Pies” (Chronicle Books) by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell.

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies
2½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup vegetable shortening
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ ounce (1 small bottle) red food coloring
1 cup buttermilk
CREAM CHEESE FILLING:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3½ cups (1 16-ounce box) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.
In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening and both sugars on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and red food coloring and beat just until blended.

Add half the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and ½ cup buttermilk and beat until completely combined.
Using a spoon, fill whoopie pie pan two-thirds full with batter and bake, then cool according to directions. Or drop about 1 tablespoon of batter onto one of the prepared sheets and repeat, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, or until the cakes spring back when pressed gently. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let cakes cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.
For the filling: In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and butter on medium speed. Add the sugar and beat on low speed until combined. Add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium; beat until creamy and smooth, about 4 minutes.
To assemble: Spread filling with a knife and sandwich two cakes together, like a sandwich cookie.
Yield: 12 pies (24 halves).
Approximate nutritional analysis per half pie: 279 calories, 40 percent of calories from fat, 13 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 39 milligrams cholesterol, 40 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 136 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Classic Chocolate Whoopie Pies
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
CLASSIC BUTTERCREAM FILLING:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 to 4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Food coloring (optional)
Decorating sprinkles (optional)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper. In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening and brown sugar on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes.
Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and ½ cup milk and beat until completely combined.
Using a spoon, drop about 1 tablespoon of batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets and repeat, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, or until the pies spring back when pressed gently.
Remove from oven and let the cakes cool on sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.
For the filling: In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the confectioners’ sugar with the butter, starting on low and increasing with medium speed, until the mixture is crumbly, about 1 minute. Add the heavy cream, vanilla and salt and beat on high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.
To tint buttercream: Add a few drops of red and stir until you get the shade of pink you desire. Roll pie in sprinkles, if desired.
To assemble: Spread filling with a knife and sandwich two cakes together, like a sandwich cookie.
Yield: 12 pies (24 halves).
Approximate nutritional analysis per half pie: 215 calories, 38 percent of calories from fat, 9 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 27 milligrams cholesterol, 32 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 94 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Lemon Whoopie Pies
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
½ cup (packed) brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
COCONUT CREAM FILLING:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¾ cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
3 tablespoons coconut milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Sweetened shredded coconut, optional garnish
Zest of 1 lemon, optional garnish
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.
In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening and both sugars until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the buttermilk and beat until combined.
Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla and beat on medium for about 2 minutes, until completely combined.
Using a spoon, fill whoopie pie pans two-thirds full and bake according to recipe directions, or drop about 1 tablespoon of batter onto one of two baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for about 12 minutes each or until the cakes begin to brown. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
For the filling: In a work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on low speed until combined. Add the coconuts, coconut milk and vanilla and beat on low until smooth, about 5 minutes.
To assemble: Spread filling with a knife and sandwich two cakes together, like a sandwich cookie.
Yield: 12 pies (24 halves).
Approximate nutritional analysis per half pie: 176 calories (38 percent from fat), 8 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 28 milligrams cholesterol, 27 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 96 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Croissant Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is one of those foods that harken a simpler era. It was a delicious dessert that even the masses could enjoy, hence its original name — “poor man’s pudding.” The first bread pudding evolved as a means of salvaging stale bread.

These days, there are a lot of versions out there, including this one that Noelle Carter of the Los Angeles Times recently shared in one of her interesting food stories that come to us via McClatchy Tribune Information Services.

Croissant Bread Pudding
SHORT DOUGH:
2¼ ounces (¼ stick plus ½ tablespoon) butter, at room temperature
½ cup plus 1½ tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (5.8 ounces) flour
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and salt over low speed until combined and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer running, add the egg, beating until fully incorporated. Gradually add the flour and continue to mix until it forms a sandy texture. Form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
CUSTARD BASE:
3 ounces (¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
3 eggs
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, heavy cream, milk and vanilla.
Pudding and assembly:
Short dough
Custard base
About 3 cups (4 ounces) chopped (½-inch dice) croissants, 3 to 4 croissants depending on size
Powdered sugar, for garnish
Whipped cream, chocolate sauce and/or fresh fruit, for garnish
Butter each of 6 ramekins. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut 12 short dough circles: On a floured board, roll out the short dough to a thickness of a scant one-fourth inch. Cut the dough into 4-inch circles (wide enough to cover the base of the ramekins). You will need a total of 12 circles; re-roll and cut the dough as needed. Line the bottom of each ramekin with 1 short dough circle.
Divide the chopped croissants among the ramekins, making a solid single layer of croissants. Ladle the custard evenly over the croissants. Top each ramekin with a short dough circle.
Place the puddings on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the custard is puffed and set, and the crust is firm and faintly colored, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly before unmolding.
Dust the puddings with powdered sugar. The puddings can be served with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and/or fresh fruit. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 513 calories, 10 grams protein, 59 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 27 grams fat (15 grams saturated), 198 milligrams cholesterol, 30 grams sugar, 239 milligrams sodium.